14 December 2018
Ian and I were up and had had breakfast by the time Bugsy had woken up, so she tucked into her WeetBix while we packed the car up ready for a long day in the car.
But first, it was surf lesson time! After a quick “Argh, where have I put my phone?” last minute search around the house, we set off for Lighthouse Beach again, where we had surfed yesterday. We were a few minutes late, but it didn’t matter as there were a few new members to our group as well as yesterday’s family of Antoinette, Lizzie and Will. We put on our wetsuits and Soul Surf rash vests, and headed down to the beach. Ian and I had to swap rash vests as mine was very baggy and his was so tight, I’d had to help him roll it down over his head and shoulders! The same was true of our wetsuits – mine was very baggy and his was very tight!
Loren took Bugsy’s board down with her, as she ran across the sand, occasionally tumbling over and screaming with delight! The waves were quite different to yesterday’s. They were messier and not as powerful, so we quickly used up a lot of energy trying to catch waves that didn’t seem to turn into much! But it meant that our exhausted bodies weren’t pushed as hard as yesterday and with Loren and Corey’s help, I caught some more great waves. Although I wiped out on loads more too! 😂🏄🏽♀️
Cornelia apparently stood up four times in all, but loved it, even when she was just riding the wave in on her tummy on her board. As long as she enjoys it, I’m keen for her to keep getting used to the water. Can’t wait for the day that her and I can go surfing together!!
Towards the end of the lesson, I suggested to Ian that if he was getting tired (his shoulders, knee and Achilles are troubling him) and wanted a good excuse to call it a day, I wouldn’t object if he whizzed up to the car, showered and came back down to the beach with my phone to take some photos. He didn’t like the idea and got very cross with me for asking three times (in my defence, if he’d answered any of the previous times, I wouldn’t have needed to repeat myself!) and then stormed off asking me where the keys were. I told him they were in the surf trailer, but he just stayed on the beach waiting, so reluctantly I left the water and headed in with him and Bugsy. 🙄
While Ian and I had been surfing, twelve year old Will had had enough and had gone to play with Cornelia keeping her very well-entertained building sandcastles and generally getting very sandy! I spoke briefly to his mum, Antoinette, who said that he was “on the spectrum” and would actually just love building sandcastles with her as it’s just what he would enjoy doing and no-one else really wants to do it with him. So, they were a match made in heaven. Will rinsed her off in the sea, then she told him she didn’t want to get her feet sandy again, and made him carry her on his back all the way back up the beach and sandy dune!! He did brilliantly, bless him, until it was time to put her down when they both stumbled and she fell flat on her back. So, sandy feet, sandy hands, sandy hair….! 😂 But she didn’t mind (phew!) and once I’d rinsed her off under the drinking fountain tap (her choice!), we stripped her off to her swimsuit, and then she joined me for a shower in the public washrooms. Argh, bad timing! It was full of pre-teen schoolgirls showering after their surf lesson. We didn’t have to wait tooooo long, but then I had a bit of a battle with Bugsy to take off her clothes and rinse off under the shower, which was cold. Eventually, I had to hold her under the spray while I rinsed her off as quickly as possible, enduring her screams of objection. I’d also only brought one towel, and had to wrap her up with me which brought its own logistical difficulties, including dropping my undies in the pond of water left by the girls. 😳
Anyway, eventually Cornelia’s dislike of the cold shower subsided and she was dried, dressed and had her hair brushed in no time.
With a long drive ahead of us, we said our farewells to Loren and Corey, both of whom had been fabulous with all three of us, and then to Will, Lizzie and Ant. Ian did the first leg of the drive, while I fed him and Cornelia sandwiches and crisps and strawberries.
We reminisced about the drives we had done previously from Sydney to Brisbane and noticed how much the roads had improved. They are much wider and look brand new, which made for a much smoother journey than we remembered. But it was tiring: Mile after mile of eucalyptus trees and forests and not much more other than the towns of Coffs Harbour and Grafton (shortly after which we swapped over driving) to break up the line of sight. Still, at least we had the Big Banana and an unexpected windmill to keep us on our toes!
So, we were off to meet Rochelle, her husband Carl, and the four kids: Daniel (11), Jacob (8), Levi and Zara (both 4). Rochelle is my third cousin, and until earlier this year, my cousin Jane and I had no idea that such an extended family even existed. We had grown up believing that all our family had died in the Second World War. (For those who don’t know our history, my Jewish Grandpa and Nana escaped Nazi Germany in the 1930s and settled in Wales, and we thought only his brother, Manfred and his family survived – they also settled in Wales.) Both Cousin Jane and Rochelle had independently explored their family history and when Jane got in touch with Rochelle, a whole new side to our previously-tiny family evolved. Rochelle and I have been in touch via Facebook for a while, and we were all very excited to meet each other. We had agreed to stay for the weekend, so we could have some precious time together.
Rochelle sent me a photo of the kids all waiting in the driveway, ready to greet us, just as we pulled up! The moment Rochelle and I hugged, it felt as if I’d known her forever. It was a completely surprising and overwhelming feeling of familiarity and I totally absorbed it.
They live in a terrific house, with a separate games room, which is where Ian, Cornelia and I were to sleep. Cornelia was thrilled because there was a drum kit in it, and she was straight in there to bang away. Hmmmm…..!
The kids were all delighted to meet each other, and became firm friends almost immediately. Daniel and the twins took Cornelia in the pool (with Cornelia deciding to try and copy Daniel’s excellent somersaults into the water!), while Rochelle, Ian and I chatted, and Rochelle cooked supper. Neither Ian nor I had realised that there is an hour’s time difference between Port Macquarie and the Gold Coast, so where I had apologised for being a little bit later than scheduled, we were in fact, half an hour early! I’m not sure which is worse!
The only thing I was then worried about was Cornelia losing the plot, as she was exhausted from surfing and the long car journey, and then had the additional excitement of four new children to play with! Luckily, Rochelle had anticipated all of this, and she made sausages and chicken and salad while the kids dried off. Carl was home a little later than he’d hoped, as he’d had to take a flight home and his plane was delayed, but he arrived in time for supper, and we all had a crazy brilliant meal outside, full of chatter and laughter. It was one of those incredibly special life moments, when things just seem to fall into place and fit together perfectly.
Rochelle’s parents, Avis and Steve, live in a house in the grounds, and we met them too, which was a total pleasure. How lucky they all are to be so close to each other! Not only are there the eight of them living there, Steve & Avis are also hosting a Japanese student for three months, and between the two families they have three dogs (Elsa, Ruby/Rhubarb and Charlie) and a dear old ancient cat!
Needless to say, Cornelia wasn’t in bed until late, but she seemed to settle well, opting to read her book for a while, which was fine by us. Rochelle and I continued bonding over gin (she had an incredible purple gin which turns pink when you add tonic!!!), and we could’ve stayed up talking all night, but for the fact that we were all bloody knackered. So glad we have a few days here – we will need every minute of it!